AIDA to Retire its Oldest Cruise Ship as part of Carnival's Fleet Plan

AIDA retires AIDAaura cruise ship
AIDAaura will be retired as part of Carnival Corporations to remove three older ships from the fleet in 2023 (AIDA)

Published Jan 5, 2023 4:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

Carnival Corporation’s German brand, AIDA, announced retirement plans for its oldest and smallest cruise ship the 20-year-old AIDAaura. The removal of the ship from the fleet is in keeping with Carnival Corporation’s plans detailed during the last investor update in which they said three cruise ships would be removed from service in 2023. The other two they said would come from Costa Cruises.

Speculation had centered on the AIDAaura as a likely candidate to be removed from the fleet due to her age and size, 42,289 gross tons, and because her sister ship AIDAvita was removed from the fleet in 2021, never having returned to service after the pause in operations caused by the pandemic. The sister ships along with the AIDAcara, which was sold in June 2021, were the original cruise ships built for AIDA before the brand became part of Carnival during the 2003 merger with P&O Cruises.

The sister ships had been ordered by P&O for the AIDA brand building on the original vacation club concept that started AIDA in Germany in 1996. At 666 feet in length and with accommodations for approximately 1,200 passengers, the AIDAaura and AIDAvita were smaller cruise ships, displaced by Carnival’s addition of 70,000, 125,000, and ultimately 183,000 gross ton cruise ships to AIDA. In more recent years, the small ships were employed for longer and more distant cruises. The AIDAaura is currently cruising around South Africa, where the farewell season begins immediately on January 9 from Cape Town.

After becoming part of Carnival Corporation, AIDA grew rapidly with the construction of seven 70,000 cruise ships in the Sphinx class and an expanded version known as the Icarus Class, all built by Meyer Werft. AIDA also built two large cruise ships in Japan before returning to Meyer Werft for the first LNG-fueled cruise ship AIDAnova in 2018 and a sister ship AIDAcosma. At one point, it was reported that AIDA, which markets to German-speaking consumers, was the most profitable operation within Carnival Corporation.

Since the resumption of service after the pandemic, AIDA has been paired back. A smaller cruise ship that was transferred to AIDA from Costa did not return to service and was sold in 2022 to the UK startup Ambassador Cruise Lines. AIDA’s first cruise ship, AIDAcara, was sold to Russian interests and was cruising in 2022 in the Black Sea while the AIDAvita is laid up in Tallinn, Estonia. In addition, Carnival Corporation reassigned a newbuild ordered from Meyer Werft as the third LNG cruise ship for AIDA. The ship, which is still under construction, is being completed as the Carnival Jubilee for Carnival Cruise Line. 

The AIDAaura begins her farewell cruises immediately and returns to Northern Europe in the spring for her final season. She will be sailing from Hamburg and Bremerhaven with trips to Scandinavia, Iceland, and Greenland, as well as Northern Europe including the UK and France. The last AIDAaura voyage for AIDA Cruises runs from September 9 to 21, 2023 from Bremerhaven, to the UK, France, and Belgium.

AIDA says the ship will have completed more than 800 cruises with around one million passengers during her 20-year career. No future plans have been announced for either the AIDAaura or the AIDAvita. It is believed both cruise ships are being offered for sale.